Popular pastor reflects on life lessons learned in Joplin

Pastor Aaron Brown Walks Through Church

JOPLIN, Mo. – Pastor Aaron Brown has been leading the faithful at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Joplin for the last 26 years but his boss says it’s time to make a change.

“I’m a United Methodist pastor and I have a bishop, and I serve at the discretion of the bishop. And so when the bishop calls and says, ‘I’ve got a place where I need you,’ then part of my ordination is to say, ‘I will go where sent,'” said Pastor Brown.

Pastor Brown may be headed to a new church in Lee’s Summit, but he’ll always keep Joplin close to his heart.

“My kids were born here in Joplin. Most of my life has been spent here in Joplin. I’ve learned so much and encountered so many great things going through the tornado here with the people of Joplin, and coming out on the other side scarred and wounded but still moving forward. It’s one of the most important parts of my life,” said Pastor Brown.

The Joplin tornado destroyed a large portion of the church but its damage and destruction went beyond the physical.

“One of the first conversations I had as I was helping dig people out of the rubble was, a little boy came up to me and said, ‘The wind came. God came with the wind and took my house. When is God going to make the wind bring my house back?’ So one of the very first questions I got was a God question. And I’m talking to a little kid and I’m trying to say, ‘God didn’t take your house away. These things just happen but God is with you and we’re going to be with you. The church is going to be with you. You’re going to see God come and help us bring back your home,'” said Pastor Brown.

This Sunday, the church will honor the six members they lost to the Joplin tornado as well as the 99 church families who lost their homes, but Pastor Brown says for some congregants, the tragic memories are still too vivid.

“I know that there are some people that because of the trauma of the tornado, when the anniversary date comes around, they kind of avoid events because it stirs up at lot of trauma,” said Pastor Brown.

Pastor Brown says one thing he’ll take with him to his next job that he learned from folks in Joplin is resilience, especially in the face of adversity.